Senegal’s New President And Africa’s Wind Of Change
Senegal’s New Senegal president, President And Africa’s Wind Of Change

Senegal’s New President And Africa’s Wind Of Change

1 month ago
4 mins read

On April 2, 2024, Bassirou Diomaye Faye, 44, took the oath of office to become Senegal’s 5th president. His rise to power ended years of political turmoil and uncertainty in the West African country. Former President, Macky Sall, with alleged tenure elongation ambitions, had wanted to delay the presidential vote, in addition to a stiff fight with the opposition, which caused years of violent protests in the country.

In fact, Faye and his newly appointed prime minister, Ousmane Sonko, came out of prison less than two weeks before the election, and upon victory, promised to engender change. Sonko, the main opposition figure, was barred from the vote due to insurrection and defamation charges, which he denies.

READ ALSO: Just In: Faye sworn-in As Senegal President, Vows Radical Change

Remarkably, Senegal’s democratic transition was very widely reported around the world, with an emphasis on the peaceful transition, which came against a backdrop of grim political fights. The media also paid attention to Faye’s age as the youngest-ever president elected in Africa as well as his relative administrative inexperience, and promise of (or desire for) change. A good number of media firms noted that Faye won by a landslide, indicating that the country wanted change, especially because the defeated candidate came from the former ruling party.

If no media organisation captured all the points above, none (global, glocal or local) failed to emphatically report Faye’s strong quest for prioritizing national interest and renegotiating contracts with foreign firms in oil, gas and natural resources. On this pedestal, the seriousness and the resolve for change were analyzed. In some of the media, the issue of coups in some West African countries as well as rising proclivity towards Russia (against former Western allies) came side-by-side Faye’s statement about renegotiating oil contracts. This is also why some chose the word desire for change rather than quest or resolve for sorely needed change and economic progress for Faye’s 18 million Senegalese compatriots. The point is, that all eyes are on Faye and Senegal to engineer a very costly change.

Why Faye talks about change

In his inaugural speech, Faye promised: “I will work towards preserving peace and national cohesion and make sure we preserve our most cherished resource, our national stability”. He talked a lot about Senegal’s political and economic troubles were widely linked to the country’s alliance with France, a colonial overlord that granted perfunctory political independence in 1960, but maintained an economic chokehold on erstwhile colonies. Faye indicated early he would leave the regional CFA franc, which he believes gives France undue economic leverage.

Notably, the end of colonialism in the 1950s to the 1960s in many African countries was also the beginning of new forms of subjugation by former overlords, which coincided with the beginnings of the Cold War, an east-west tension over control of the global resources. The Cold War between Western powers and the defunct USSR almost tore Africa apart. In the 21st century, new interests from Russia and China, in addition to existing, but constantly refurbished ones by Western powers, have been open to scrutiny, despite promises of food, financial aid, infrastructure support, and debt cancellation.

Kenya, Ethiopia, Zimbabwe, Uganda and Sudan have all been linked with Chinese influence over the last decade, and the declining civil liberties and the rising political crisis in these countries have been linked with Chinese influence. Libya, Mozambique, Congo, Mali, Niger, Burkina Faso, etc., are locked in dire political and economic difficulties as a result of foreign interties. As of 2024, sub-Saharan African indebtedness to developed and developing countries had hit a mammoth $41 billion. Despite the $161 billion flowing in annually as aid, loans and diaspora remittances, it is said that another $203bn leaves through other means such as tax evasion by foreign companies. Money laundering alone costs Africa three times the amount of aid it receives or 6.1% of the GDP of the continent. Profits remitted to developed countries from Africa are as much as $30bn, while illegal logging, fishing and wildlife hunting and trade cost Africa $29bn annually. Resources have been a curse in Africa as richness in minerals has a close association with instability, violence, weak governance, unstable democracy and political interference.

What Faye and Africa must change

Without regulating foreign investment the way it happens in the European Union and in the US, Africa will never benefit from foreign investment. This is aside from the daylight robbery that happens in illegal mineral mining, where it is said that oil theft alone cost Nigeria $700 million as over 470,000 barrels are illegally shipped from the country monthly. The story is the same in gold, diamond, cobalt, etc. across the continent. Some like Nigeria now repay impossible debts using natural resources like crude oil, which saw Nigeria recently importing crude for its local refinery, despite having the world’s 11th-largest deposit of crude oil. Ghana, for instance, is said to be spending 30% of government revenue on debt servicing.

Illicit cash outflows from Africa by rich Africans must be stopped. More than $700bn of wealthy African’s money is in tax havens abroad. Moreover, foreign countries, in the guise of aid and investment, corner African wealth through elitist public utilities like schools and health centres (which prohibit the building of local ones). Forestalling unnecessary privatization (such as Nigeria’s experience in electricity), massive agricultural imports and domestic insecurity (especially in agricultural production) are important to secure an economy, and to give it a competitive edge in the international markets (against currency devaluation and foreign exchange manipulations).

When Senegal’s new president talks about prioritizing national interest, these are just a few of the implications. Does he have a desire, or strong resolve for change? Faye will be an interesting test case of the argument on the role of former colonial masters in Africa’s economic travails vis a vis the equal blame-worthiness of the willfully docile and complicit of African rulers.

 

Dr Mbamalu, a Jefferson Fellow, is an Editor, Publisher and Communications Consultant. Follow on X: @marcelmbamalu

 

 

Dr. Marcel Mbamalu is a communication scholar, journalist and entrepreneur. He holds a Ph.D in Mass Communication from the University of Nigeria, Nsukka and is the Chief Executive Officer Newstide Publications, the publishers of Prime Business Africa.

A seasoned journalist, he horned his journalism skills at The Guardian Newspaper, rising to the position of News Editor at the flagship of the Nigerian press. He has garnered multidisciplinary experience in marketing communication, public relations and media research, helping clients to deliver bespoke campaigns within Nigeria and across Africa.

He has built an expansive network in the media and has served as a media trainer for World Health Organisation (WHO) at various times in Northeast Nigeria. He has attended numerous media trainings, including the Bloomberg Financial Journalism Training and Reuters/AfDB training on Effective Coverage of Infrastructural Development of Africa.

A versatile media expert, he won the Jefferson Fellowship in 2023 as the sole Africa representative on the program. Dr Mbamalu was part of a global media team that covered the 2020 United State’s Presidential election. As Africa's sole representative in the 2023 Jefferson Fellowships, Dr Mbamalu was selected to tour the United States and Asia (Japan and Hong Kong) as part of a 12-man global team of journalists on a travel grant to report on inclusion, income gaps and migration issues between the US and Asia.

Dr. Marcel Mbamalu is a communication scholar, journalist and entrepreneur. He holds a Ph.D in Mass Communication from the University of Nigeria, Nsukka and is the Chief Executive Officer Newstide Publications, the publishers of Prime Business Africa.

A seasoned journalist, he horned his journalism skills at The Guardian Newspaper, rising to the position of News Editor at the flagship of the Nigerian press. He has garnered multidisciplinary experience in marketing communication, public relations and media research, helping clients to deliver bespoke campaigns within Nigeria and across Africa.

He has built an expansive network in the media and has served as a media trainer for World Health Organisation (WHO) at various times in Northeast Nigeria. He has attended numerous media trainings, including the Bloomberg Financial Journalism Training and Reuters/AfDB training on Effective Coverage of Infrastructural Development of Africa.

A versatile media expert, he won the Jefferson Fellowship in 2023 as the sole Africa representative on the program. Dr Mbamalu was part of a global media team that covered the 2020 United State’s Presidential election. As Africa's sole representative in the 2023 Jefferson Fellowships, Dr Mbamalu was selected to tour the United States and Asia (Japan and Hong Kong) as part of a 12-man global team of journalists on a travel grant to report on inclusion, income gaps and migration issues between the US and Asia.

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